London’s oldest bridge

Ask any cabbie and he’ll be able to name the bridges spanning the Thames, to help we even have three adjacent crossings conveniently spelling CAB: Chelsea, Albert and Battersea bridges.

Most bridges are fairly modern, the current incarnation of London Bridge opened in the 1970s, although previous versions go back much further, Tower Bridge dates back to 1894, and our three CAB bridges only date back a few years: Chelsea 1937, Albert 1859, Battersea 1890.

So which is London’s oldest bridge?

The little-known Clattern Bridge, built-in 1293 holds the record. Named because of the noise of horse’s hoofs would make as they crossed. This bridge is still functioning, although these days the structure is driven or walked, rather than ridden, over.

Unlike the others, technically the bridge doesn’t cross the Thames. The Clattern Bridge crosses the River Hogsmill a tributary of the Thames, in Kingston, just before it joins the mighty Thames.

There is a bright blue badge on the central span of Clattern Bridge, featuring the coat of arms of Kingston, itself dating from 1623, recognisable from the three salmon on a blue background. The Domesday Book entry for Kingston mentions three salmon fisheries in the Thames, hence their inclusion of them on the county’s badge.

To prove how robust was its construction, the bridge is part of Kingston High Street, and still in use, unlike Hammersmith Bridge with less than 135 years of use.

Featured image: The Clattern Bridge is a bridge over the Hogsmill River in Kingston upon Thames. It was built around 1175 and is thus one of the oldest intact bridges in England. It replaced an older Saxon bridge which was known as the Clatrung Bridge. Its various names, such as the Clateryngbrugge, are thought to derive from the clattering of horses’ hooves as they crossed the bridge. The bridge still carries a full load of modern vehicle traffic. Up to the 18th century, the bridge was used as a site for the ducking of scolds with a cucking stool. The bridge also featured in the traditional game of football held in the centre of Kingston each year on Shrove Tuesday. It was the goal for one of the teams, while the nearby Kingston Bridge was the other goal, by Loco Steve (CC BY-NC 2.0).

5 thoughts on “London’s oldest bridge”

  1. When I lived in Wimbledon, we often went shopping in Kingston. My first wife worked at the Kingston College of Further Education for a time, so I remember the old bridge.
    Cheers, Pete.


    1. East London I lived with a girl near Stepney Green for a couple of months in the early 70s, but don’t count that as it was her flat and I was only sleeping over. I never really lived East/North East, but in most of the rest of it, at one time or another. This is the chronological list.
      Bexley (Then in Kent)
      Bexleyheath (Also in Kent then)
      Rotherhithe (again)
      Borehamwood (Herts)
      Camden Town
      Then moved to Norfolk. 🙂


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